Do You Know Your Cause?

Late bloomers have always fascinated me.

"Shakespeare and Company" by Gavin Anderson, on FlickrWhy are some people able to muster up the courage later in life to follow a completely new path, while others stay stuck on the sidelines?

Well, one obvious difference is that late bloomers have made the decision to act. They get out there and do something about their dreams. A lot of them probably have a clear idea of what they want to do, as well – some sort of passion or interest that gives them the motivation they need to keep moving forward.

But what about the many late bloomers who don’t start out with a clear passion? The ones who are able to make successful transitions seem to have something else in common. They’ve discovered their cause.

Think of your cause as your purpose

Your cause is the theme underlying everything you do. If you’re having trouble identifying what you like or you’re not sure what you enjoy, start looking for your cause.

In my own case, I’ve had several careers that look nothing alike, at least not on the surface.

Right after graduating from college (equipped with my degree in English), I took a job as a bookstore clerk. Now that wasn’t my goal when I went to college, but the job market was tough the year I graduated. The day-to-day activities of my job weren’t especially exciting, but it was in that job that I began to understand what my “cause” was.

I love books, and I’ve always been an information junkie. I found myself drawn to helping people find what they were looking for, even when they didn’t know what that was. My “cause” was to listen for and understand what people wanted, and to provide them with the resources that would fit their needs.

Seeing my job in that broader sense made my work meaningful, fun, and something to look forward to every day.

Tell your own story

Just as stories in books have themes, so does your life/work.

For example, after working at the bookstore, I went on to work as an accountant in various nonprofit settings – the social services, the arts, and a botanical garden – once again providing information that would help people make decisions.

In my more recent careers as a social worker and now as a career coach, the themes are the same. No matter how different all those careers look, they all involve listening, hearing between the lines, sharing resources and information, and empowering others to change their lives in one way or another.

Once I saw how those common threads run through everything I’ve done, I was able to make sense of my own later life career changes. Seeing that “bigger picture” of what I was meant to do, I realized I could explore any number of interests, and still follow through every one of them the thread of my purpose.

When you know your cause, or your purpose, you’re no longer limited to any one job or any one venue. You have more possibilities.

To find your cause, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What do you like to do in your spare time? What do you do when no one’s looking?
  • How do you find yourself drawn to serve people? And who are those people?
  • What parts of your current (or most recent) work do you most enjoy?
  • What comes easily to you? What do you do so naturally you don’t even think about it?
  • What are the common threads you see in your past work (and in the answers to these questions)? Look back at your life as if you were looking at somebody else’s story. What themes do you see?

These themes provide the clues you need to find your cause. And once you know your cause, you’ll be able to tell your own story! As you create your next career or look for that next job, you’ll be in the powerful position of being able to present a coherent narrative of who you are and what you have to offer.

So… what is your cause?

Photo credit: Gavin Anderson / CC license

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  • Lori

    Great advice Janet. It’s better to be open to lots of options. I am lucky that I am moving in the direction of my passion each day. I find by being alert to what I want lots of good comes my way. Lori

    • Lori, it sounds like you’ve discovered the secret of how to follow your heart. Being open and alert to what you want is truly the key. Thank you so much for posting!

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